Thursday, July 28, 2011

Negative Grohmentum Commences Operation Grand Slam

When last we met with Negative Grohmentum, it was coming off an unprecedented year in which only four of the nine reigning conference coaches of the year saw their teams regress.  Nick Saban won a national title as one of three reigning SEC coaches of the year.  Brian Kelly led Cincinnati to an unbeaten regular season as the reigning Big East coach of the year.  Paul Johnson won an ACC title had a good year on the field as the reigning ACC coach of the year.  With another year like that, Negative Grohmentum was threatening to go the way of my previous pet theory for identifying overrated teams: the Charles Rogers Theorem, which died after it spat out eventual national champion Florida in 2006 and then eventual #2 Georgia in 2007.  Thankfully, 2010 was a return to glory, and not in a Ty Willingham, we kept getting outgained, but won because of a collection of punt blocks and terrible calls sort of way.  Behold the regression!

SEC - Nick Saban – regressed by 3.5 games
Big Ten - Kirk Ferentz – regressed by 3 games
Big XII - Mack Brown – regressed by 7 games
ACC - Paul Johnson – regressed by 4.5 games
Pac Ten - Chip Kelly – improved by 2 games
Big East - Brian Kelly – regressed by 7.5 games

Now that's a fire!  Five of the six coaches of the year regressed and not by a small margin.  Negative Grohmentum wasn’t screwing around last year.  It grabbed Mack Brown by the lapels and turned his team from a participant in the national title game to a team sitting out the bowl season.  It beat on Cincinnati like Sonny Corleone on Carlo Rizzi.  (I guess the Pitt game was the equivalent of getting beaten with a trash can.)

And best of all, the Big Ten maintained its lengthy winning streak.  Since 1992, no Big Ten coach of the year has seen his team’s record improve the following year.  Jim Tressel just resigned got fired and the only empty spot on his resume was a Dave McClain Coach of the Year award.  Tressel led the Bucks to an unbeaten season in his second year with an underwhelming squad and wasn’t the coach of the year.  He won or tied for the conference title in each of his last six seasons in Columbus, but the Midwestern media never saw fit to honor him with a plaque.  Lloyd Carr suffered the same fate.  Carr won Michigan’s first national title in 49 years, but Joe Tiller was deemed to have done a better job in 1997.  Carr won the conference title in 2004 with a true freshman at quarterback and lost the coach of the year award to Kirk Ferentz.  (I guess that it must have taken a superhuman coaching effort by Ferentz for Iowa to lose to Michigan by only 13 points that year.)  Meanwhile, the Queen of England has won the award three times, despite the fact that he is a combined 5-16 against Tressel and Carr.  Apparently, the key to winning the Dave McClain award is to have crappy seasons so that your good ones stand out.

So which teams are marked for death in 2011?  I’m glad you asked.

SEC – Steve Spurrier – South Carolina
Big Ten – Mark Dantonio – Michigan State
Big XII – Mike Gundy – Oklahoma State
ACC – Ralph Friedgen – Maryland
Pac Ten – Chip Kelly – Oregon
Big East – Randy Edsall – UConn & Charlie Strong – Louisville

Negative Grohmentum is pretty confident about this bunch.  Expecting South Carolina to regress after its first divisional title is a pretty safe bet;* it’s pretty much the same thing as asking “are one of Florida, Georgia, or Tennessee going to wake up?”  (Question: was 2010 South Carolina any different than the collection of good, but not great Gamecock teams that have graced the SEC since South Carolina joined the conference?)  Michigan State is the Platonic ideal of a Big Ten team that would get its coach a Dave McClain award: gaudy record, unremarkable underlying stats, and a near certainty for regression.  Mike Gundy looks to me like George O’Leary minus Ralph Friedgen.  Speaking of Georgia Tech’s former offensive coordinator, Maryland was so impressed by Friedgen’s work last year that they pushed him out the door, a move that made sense when Mike Leach was the rumored replacement and makes little sense now that Randy Edsall is in charge.  Chip Kelly’s Oregon team is bound to regress because there’s almost nowhere to go but down after going 12-1.  The only teams that might defy Negative Grohmentum are UConn and Louisville, because it’s reasonable to improve on 8-5 and 7-6 in a conference where everyone is the same.  The Huskies and Cards will likely determine whether Negative Grohmentum succeeds in setting off a nuclear device inside of Fort Knox.

* – Counterpoint: Spurrier won the SEC Coach of the Year award in 1990, 1991, 1994, 1995, and 1996 and kept right on winning conference titles.  The media in the SEC reward the coaches of the best teams, as opposed to the media in the Big Ten, which looks for the coach whose team overcame bad recruiting by winning a bunch of close games in improbable fashion showed guts and moxie en route to getting a hiding in Orlando or Tampa.  Can you tell, by the way, that I am having fun with Strikethrough this morning?  Windows Live Writer is so much fun!

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